05 October 2003 Sunday - Istanbul - 42 Photos

We were picked up by Tendu, the same guide we had in Istanbul two weeks ago, for our final "half-day" tour. She immediately told us that the Topkapi Palace Harem section was open now, and asked if we wanted to go. We told her we had already gone, the same day she had been with us before.

The plan for the day, flawed as it was, was to visit the Archaeological museum and then go on a half-day boat ride referred to in our itinerary as a "private sightseeing on the Bosphorus." However, both of these things are half-day events, so we knew we weren't going to have time, so that's why we went there yesterday. So Tendu was gong to take us to the Archaeological museum, but we told her we had already gone, and she was relieved because she agreed that there would not have been enough time. We had a little time before the boat departed, so she took us to an small but excellent mosque that had really beautiful tiles.

Tendu graciously refunded the money we spent getting in to the Harem and the Archaeological museum.

From the mosque, we walked to the boat ride. The "private sightseeing on the Bosphorus" turned out to be an ordinary passenger ferry ride that cost less than three dollars per person. Because it was Sunday, it was crowded with people, all of whom were smoking and very noisy.

We couldn't see anything, we couldn't move enough to take pictures, or anything. Kathy had been looking forward to a nice relaxing boat ride to finish out our trip, but this was far from her expectations, so she was absolutely furious. She started yelling at poor Tendu about how bad it was. Tendu was very gracious and apologetic. She agreed that it was really bad compared to what we expected. I tried to console Kathy, saying that yes, the tour company (Dutilh, not Helenic Adventures) screwed up, and we would be talking with them. I also tried to console poor Tendu, who was getting the brunt of Kathy's anger. I told her that we knew she didn't make up the program and that we didn't blame her.

After our ferry ride, the bus (which met us at the end of the Ferry) took us to an old church called the Chora Monastery that had fantastic mosaic pictures and frescos,

many of which tell stories from the life of Christ that do not appear in today's Bible. For example, there is the story of Mary's birth, Mary’s presentation to the temple,

Mary's death,

Joseph's decision to stay with Mary and so forth. I'm not quite sure if the depicted scenes were taken from the Greek Orthodox church, the Byzantines or the Gnostics. There was a cool mosaic of the Magi talking to King Herod,

and a somewhat pissed-off Jesus.

At any rate, they were very cool, and very well-preserved. How old was the church? Well, according to the book, the origin of the church is not known for sure, but the thing was destroyed in a big earthquake in 557 A.D. and had to be rebuilt.

After leaving the church, we walked down toward the Borpheus Strait, watching the locals and their shops. This was a very back-street Istanbul experience, seeing how the people live their daily lives. It was cool, but we felt out of place and a little uncomfortable. We stopped and ate pistachios at a park on the water where many people were picnicing, then we took a taxi back to the Hagia Sophia (the church which is near our hotel). Kathy wanted a Turkish bath, so we went to a public bath, and I waited outside. After her bath, we went back to the hotel and packed for the airplane ride home. It was a challenge to pack because of all the things we had bought.

At 8:00pm, Tendu picked us up (with a driver) for a special "farewell dinner." The meal was excellent, and we enjoyed talking philosophy with Tendu. She's a very smart woman, with a degree in physics. She's been a physics teacher and enjoys solving geometry problems, but above all, she has studied philosophy. Therefore, many of our discussions, even when we first arrived in Istanbul, centered around philosophy, and religion. We talked about how religions become corrupt when they become institutionalized, but the original founders-Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, Zoroaster and so forth-have a direct connection with the divine, and we should pay attention to what they said and not their followers. We spoke about how this perfectly mirrors the cave analogy of Plato: Imagine a cave where all the inhabitants are tied to chairs and watch shadows dance on the back wall. Suppose one of those people somehow gets free from his chair, turns around and sees the light pouring in from outside. Suppose he goes outside and sees the real light, of which he has only see a reflection his whole life. When he gets back to his chair and tries to tell the others, they naturally think he's crazy. But how can he describe what he has seen based on the shadows that the others know. Those guys, the ones who have seen the reality beyond the cave, they are the Christs, Buddhas, Krishas, Zoroasters, and Mohammeds of the world.

We also talked about how bad the tourist industry has been since the September 11, 2001 attacks. We told Tendu that we've had a wonderful time in Turkey, and we would encourage other American tourists to visit Turkey.

Total photos taken on the digital camera: 1399, plus 22 rolls of conventional 35mm film.